FORT WORTH, TX – Responding to protests and maintaining order seems to be the challenge faced by law enforcement across the country in recent weeks with the death of George Floyd.
As local chiefs of police, city mayors, county officials and state governors try to avoid the cross fire of protest and rioting, the citizens of these communities are caught in the middle of the conflict.
Even though Texas is a mostly conservative state in the views shared by its citizens, even the most controversial of issues can cause this red state to sway in opinion.
Fort Worth Police Department (FWPD) was swept up in the ongoing debate over police reform on May 31st when protesters were met by FWPD Officer on the West 7th Street Bridge in down town Fort Worth.
After an hour long standoff on the bridge, the FWPD SWAT team used tear gas to disperse the crowd of protesters. Police officers eventually ended up arresting 40 protesters that were believed to be responsible for inciting a riot.
In Texas, inciting a riot is a Class A Misdemeanor and defined by a person advocating, urging or organizing six or more people to engage in tumultuous and violent conduct of kind likely to cause public alarm.
Being a law enforcement professional and involved in crowd dispersal techniques it is common practice for orders to be given to a crowd to disperse first prior to law enforcement intervention.
— Fort Worth Police (@fortworthpd) June 9, 2020
A few days after the protest, FWPD Chief of Police Ed Kraus stated only the protesters found vandalizing businesses and accused of committing assaults would be charged.
Originally, it was reported that the Chief would be dropping all charges incurred during the protests-turned-riots. However, the department clarified:
“The only charges dropped were minor misdemeanors which did not involve property or personal crimes.”
Chief Kraus continued to clarify how the charges would be followed up is that ultimately decisions regarding charges would be made by the Tarrant County Criminal District Attorney’s Office.
In a statement, Kraus said:
“On May 31st, Fort Worth Police arrested several dozen people for rioting during a protest. Since that time, the protests in the City have been peaceful. The protesters have expressed their anger over police misconduct and have demanded changes.”
Of the dropped charges, Kraus continued:
“This is just one step on a long journey, but I hope it showed that the FWPD is committed to walking the path of reform with our community.”
Whether officers from FWPD arrested persons for rioting, assaults or looting I believe that most citizens can agree, they want peace maintained. When peaceful assemblies lead from parking lots and plazas to blocking roads and streets, it is expected that some intervention from law enforcement will resolve the problem.
The blurring of lines between what is lawful and criminal in America’s major cities has incentivized extremist groups into pushing the envelope on what is acceptable protest. Government leaders have become hesitant in making timely decisions to deter unlawful activities that leading to a breakdown of civility in major US cities.
‘Most’ Arrested Protesters Immediately Released Due to NY Bail Reform Law – This happened in Fort Worth as well. Does this set a precedence for future protests? https://t.co/fWMJGjzk2c
— 🐾MilSpecOpsMonkey🐾 (@mil_ops) June 14, 2020
The shift in Fort Worth is part of a national debate over how police and prosecutors should handle charges of curfew violations and rioting that in many cases were levied as police tried to curb looting and vandalism that stemmed from nearly two weeks of widespread protests. I found this statement to be not only true but troubling because government leaders are supposed to be part of the process of maintaining civil structure and not encouraging discord.
The lack of action by government leaders in cities like Seattle, Portland, Atlanta, Minneapolis and even in Fort Worth will encourage other cities to follow suit in how they respond to violent protest or rioters. Charging persons with a crime is suppose to be a deterrent to negative behavior so that others know there are consequences to their actions.
Police Chief’s don’t like being thrown in the middle of a public debate, but it is up to them and their departments to maintain the safety and peace for all of the citizen’s they represent.
Fort Worth protest is calm
Adequate police presence
No vandalism thus far
Very different from Dallas
Red vs. Blue cities have very different protest cultures
The people here were responsibly voicing their grievances pic.twitter.com/RAes8XoEGj
— ELIJAH SCHAFFER (@ElijahSchaffer) June 1, 2020
There is common ground in policing in America, but not at the expense of losing the support of your staff, officers and the community you serve.
The reoccurring theme seen within a majority of the protests are people within the black community want to be heard.
The reoccurring theme from the rioters are they will cause chaos and destruction at any cost.
The one thing I can expect from communities that address the call for police reform, is more community out reach to at risk youth and involvement by civil leaders that believe their voices have never been heard.
Meanwhile, in Milwaukee, offenders are being charged with felonies for crimes of looting and burglary. Law Enforcement Today brought you the story of the city cracking down on crimes like this during the riots. Here it is again.
MILWAUKEE, WI – Ten people have been arrested and charged with burglary in connection with looting in Milwaukee.
The arrests were made for incidents occurring between May 27 and June 1.
Those arrested were:
-Terry Gilbert, 26, burglary-building or dwelling
-Lamont Nelson, 48, burglary-building or dwelling
-Samuel Daniels, 18, burglary-building or dwelling
-Desmond Givens, 18, burglary-building or dwelling, identity theft-obtain money or credit
-Marcus Coleman, 31, burglary-building or dwelling
-Isaiah Allen, 26, burglary-building or dwelling
-Octavian Miller, 26, burglary-building or dwelling, as party to a crime
-Jerry Burks, 25, burglary-building or dwelling
-Marissa Jones, 19, burglary-building or dwelling
-Amondre Brooks, 18, burglary-building or dwelling, as party to a crime
Up to $700,000 of merchandise stolen from Trend Benderz in overnight Milwaukee looting https://t.co/4dCiPsbXEX
— Milwaukee County Crime, Fire & Police News (@mke_cnty_crime) May 31, 2020
Sam Ramahi owns Trend Benderz, a shoe store in the city near 35th Street and Capitol Drive. He said:
“Everything here was full. Everything has been taken out. All my tables are empty.
“So far, we are estimating damage with inventory anywhere between $600,000 to $700,000.”
Keep in mind this estimate is just for one store.
Ramahi said it took only 15 minutes for looters to clear his store.
The first two listed above, Gilbert and Nelson, were said to have gone in to Trend Benderz first.
Gilbert reportedly told police that he was “going to take something from the store,” but it had already been broken into. He also said he was “stopped by the police outside” before he took anything.
Nelson said he had recently gotten out of prison and saw people leaving the store carrying shoes. He said he went inside with the intent to take some but they were all gone before he could.
First groups of #BlackLivesMattters looters are starting to be caught and charged. Police will get them all. They will be charged with robbery not shoplifting, which carry long jail sentences in most states https://t.co/LXJuCMCFYA
— Aldo Rossi 🇮🇹🙋🏻♂️🇪🇸⚪️ (@MeNeFrego75) June 20, 2020
Jones and Miller listed above were involved in looting from Value Beauty near Teutonia Avenue and Florist Street. The two were seen leaving with “arms full of merchandise.”
Additionally, court documents said that Miller’s vehicle contained an “aluminum baseball bat, hammer and two unopened cellphone boxes” when he was found.
Both businesses are still boarded up, according to local Fox affiliate, News6.
Isaiah Allen was located inside the Kids Foot Locker in the 4100 block of N. 56th St. When he was caught, he was holding several boxes of shoes. He also had a handgun in his waistband.
According to police, he knew breaking into the store was wrong but he wanted shoes for his kids.
Milwaukee Police confirm 16 businesses in Milwaukee were damaged or looted late Friday night into early Saturday morning.Trend Benderz, at 35th and Capitol, was one of the worst hit. It sells high-end sneakers, shoes, clothes and accessories. https://t.co/gqve5hQC0j
— Technology Info Sec (@technology_tis) June 1, 2020
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported:
“Video from [Trend Benderz] showed Raymell Moore, 20, loading several boxes of shoes into a car outside before he was also caught inside by police. He told an officer he had decided to “just go with the flow” and steal some shoes. Now he faces a burglary charge.
“Booker Williams, 18, is charged with second-degree reckless endangerment. Police say he sped and wove through a crowded intersection of North 35th Street and West Fond du Lac Avenue about 2 a.m. Monday, with passengers hanging out windows. The car continued even after it hit spike strips police had laid out, before it was abandoned about a half-mile away.
“Police found Williams’ ID in the car and he later walked up to them and admitted he’d been driving. He’s being held in the jail on $300 bail.”
Dozens of others were arrested for non felonies, including violence, vandalism and curfew violations.
Feds in Philadelphia have also had success locating vandals. Law Enforcement Today told you about an incredible show of police work recently. Here it is again in case you missed it.
A woman whom authorities say is responsible for torching two police cruisers during riots that transpired in Philadelphia is now facing federal charges, according to reports.
Proving once again that while certain cities may have proverbially calmed down, investigators aren’t turning a blind eye to felonies committed back in May.
Officials say that Lore-Elisabeth Blumenthal was among those engaged in riotous acts on May 30th in Philadelphia, alleging that she set two police vehicles ablaze during the chaos that ensued within the city.
Lore-Elisabeth Blumenthal deserves a fair trial & if found guilty needs to be prosecuted to the maximum extent Allowed by the law & there should be no bail because some Anarchist left-wing @dnc will pay her bail! Great job @FBI, Bravo! Normal @gop USA wants law not Anarchy!
— Alan B Patterson MD (@AlanPattersonMD) June 19, 2020
Investigators pointed to the existence of photographic and video evidence of Blumenthal retrieving a piece of wood covered in flames from one police cruiser, and then placing that burning wood into a police SUV which cause the vehicle to catch fire.
Reportedly both the initial cruiser and the SUV were subsequently destroyed from the flames as a result.
U.S. Attorney William McSwain commented on the alleged acts carried out by Blumenthal:
“We at the U.S. Attorney’s Office fully support the First Amendment right of the people to assemble peaceably and to petition their government. But torching a police car has nothing to do with peaceful protest or any legitimate message.”
The 33-year-old suspect in federal custody is facing a possible sentence of 80 years in prison, accompanied by up to three years of supervision and a fine of up to half a million dollars.
McSwain issued a stern warning to those who thought they may have gotten away with criminal acts during the riots within the past four weeks:
“Anybody who engaged in such acts can stand by to put your hands behind your back and head to federal prison. We are coming for you.”
Solid work by @FBI: A #Philadelphia woman was #arrested & #charged after she allegedly set 2 #police vehicles on fire during protests over the #GeorgeFloyd's death.#FBI found Lore-Elisabeth Blumenthal, 33, through her @Etsy purchases & @LinkedIn profile.
— Liz Goldenberg (@newstruthliz) June 19, 2020
ATF Acting Special Agent in Charge John Schmidt stated that the agency will continue to work in finding individuals responsible for acts of arson, likening such displays as ones that “terrorize” communities:
“Everybody deserves to be safe from violent criminals utilizing dangerous methods to destroy our neighborhoods and property. ATF will always work with our local, state and federal partners to investigate and arrest the criminals who choose to use arson to commit their crimes and terrorize the public.”
These dumb commies keep outing themselves with tattoos and now custom-made T-shirts from Etsy 🤣😆 This Antifa arsonist here faces 80-years in a federal prison https://t.co/u5sbTpTi0F
— ✭ Wayne Dupree ✭ (@WayneDupreeShow) June 19, 2020
This particular investigation was a collaborative effort between the FBI, Homeland Security Investigations, ATF, the Philadelphia Police Department and the Philadelphia Fire Marshal’s Office.
Meaning that with all the aforementioned agencies and their resources, identifying more criminal acts that transpired during the riots is inevitable.
Philadelphia Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw relayed such a sentiment during the announcement of the charges against Blumenthal:
“We are privileged to have worked, and will continue to work, with our partners in law enforcement to investigate, identify and hold accountable the persons who committed these unlawful acts.”
What led authorities to her is actually quite remarkable investigative techniques.
The first clue stemmed from footage captured by a news crew helicopter that was covering the destruction on May 30th, to include the torched police vehicles. Through that footage obtained, they were able to identify a general outline of the suspects race, gender, and outfit.
From there, investigators found an image of the same suspect on Instagram present at the riot, while being able to hone in on an image of a distinct tattoo on her right forearm.
Then, police obtained 500 photos from a photographer present during the riots and protests and found another image of the suspect, wearing a specific shirt that read “Keep the immigrants, deport the racists.” That was no ordinary shirt – as it happened to be a custom one sold on the website Etsy.
FBI tracked down white woman who set cop cars alight by tracing the t-shirt to Etsy | Lore-Elisabeth Blumenthal, 33, faces two counts of felony arson for her role in setting ablaze two Philadelphia Police Department (PPD) vehicles on May 30 https://t.co/7pbRhMuCgB
— Reformed Bully (@ReformedBully) June 18, 2020
That’s when police ventured to the Etsy webstore and happened to find a five-star review for a purchase of that very shirt from someone who resided in Philadelphia, which led to a online Etsy profile called “Alleycatlore” which held a display name toting “Lore-Elisabeth.”
It was through looking into LinkedIn that investigators managed to find a profile for Lore-Elisabeth linking to a massage therapist company that hosted videos of none other than Blumenthal with that distinct tattoo that police identified in photographic evidence obtained earlier.
After obtaining all the aforementioned, a subpoena was delivered to Etsy that confirmed the shirt worn by the arson suspect was indeed sold and shipped to Blumenthal. Now that is some awesome police work.
While the Justice Department’s release was specific to Blumenthal’s alleged criminal activity, the recurring notion throughout the release was that the feds are coming after all who were using the protests to engage in violent acts and crime.
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